“And that’s where we’re headed.”
Distracted as they were, and lulled into a false sense of security by the distance they had put between them and the Galra, they failed to notice anything outside of their little bubble inside the cockpit. Therefore, they were surprised when something hit their ship as soon as the word left Krolia’s lips. Keith quickly took control of it, but it wasn’t in good shape; it wasn’t fast enough with one engine down, which caused him to have to favor one side, all the while he tried to avoid every shot and retaliate, but trying to keep the ship steady and fire at the Galra’s was proving to be difficult. He cursed under his breath, trying to maneuver the ship so it wasn’t right in front of the enemy, put some distance between them so the accuracy of the Galra would be at least a little compromised. The problem was that he wasn’t going to be able to do it while responding to the attacks, and if he didn’t even try to shoot them back, it would give them the time they needed to lock on his position and blowing them off the fucking sky —wait, was it still sky even if they were in space?
He grunted when he barely managed to avoid a hit dead center.
“We are not going to be able to keep this for long! They hit one of our main engines and it’s fucking up the whole ship!,” he screamed. Krolia —his mom, he still couldn’t believe it was her— nodded, her face turning into a mask of determination.
“I’ll try to get inside the ship and take them out, you concentrate on avoiding everything they fire your way. Try to fire but not to hit them. I need you to distract them so I can sneak in and out, okay?” He nodded.
She sounded so sure, so fearless, Keith felt admiration blossom inside his chest. Still doesn’t justify her abandoning me, he reminded himself. It wasn’t so easy to forgive and forget.
With all the recklessness Iverson and everyone at the Garrison —except Shiro— reprimanded him for, he managed to maneuver the ship so he was right above the enemy. Krolia jumped out of the ship the second they were in place. He couldn’t see her clearly —he was trying to avoid being fucking blown up—, but caught a glimpse of her making a hole in a freaking ship. The Galra didn’t even notice her at first, too occupied with Keith. He distracted them as much as he could while Krolia kicked the piece of metal down, hitting a Galra, if the grunt and sound of a body falling he could hear from their comms was anything to go by. Then, it was a blur of sounds in his ear: grunts, hits, a gun being fired, the slice of a blade on skin. Krolia didn’t even sound breathless, so she was clearly kicking their asses, and in mere seconds. A surprised laugh escaped his lips the second he saw her through the glass in the Galras’ fighter ship, unscathed and not even a hair out of place while she closed in on the only one still standing. A rookie mistake, if there was ever one, for it caused him to stop moving and firing, and frozen in place as he was, too enraptured by the sheer awesomeness —he could even hear it in Lance’s voice; god, why did he spend so much time with him in the castle ship, again?— of Krolia kicking evil Galra ass so easily, he unknowingly gave the Galra piloting the ship the opportunity to lock in his position and fire dead center. He only realized something was wrong when he saw his mom’s eyes widen and her scream through the comms.
His eyes widened, having been taken off guard. He didn’t have enough time to avoid being hit, but just enough to be able to move so the shot didn’t hit the hull. The only remaining engine was damaged, and he ended up spiraling out of control. His ship knocked into various asteroids, until he crashed into one of the biggest ones, but even if the crash hadn’t been too bad, his head had already taken one too many hits, and he began to lose consciousness as he heard a familiar roar. His mind felt the soothing and wild touch of someone, or something, else’s. He gasped.
But he couldn’t be sure, because that’s when everything went black.
Lance had been in the training room, learning how to use the Altean broadsword he had unlocked just a few days before, when a roar was heard throughout the castle. He recognized it and stopped mid swing, the droid in front of him dropping to the floor.
“End training sequence!,” he screamed, running towards the door of the training deck.
It was Red. He could feel it through their new bond. The truth was, he hadn’t bonded with Red fully, but he still could feel her. He could feel worry, and her roar reverberated in his head.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck,” he whispered. “Red! For the love of all that’s good, wait for me! If you’re gonna get the fuck out of here at least take me with you!” he shouted, hoping his lion would hear him and not be as hotheaded and impulsive as her previous paladin. I hope I influenced her a little, he thought. He was proud to say he had been able to rein Keith in when the red paladin had gotten carried away; he hoped he could do that with the red lion too. Because even if Red had accepted him so easily, he was so sure he wouldn’t be able to reach her the way Keith had. If she got too far away, the only way they could get her back was going to be Allura’s connection to the lions, not his own connection with her.
He wasn’t Keith.
Luckily, Red merely roared again, but she seemed to be willing to wait for him. Thanks to being in his paladin armor for training, he was a little faster in getting to her hangar. When he arrived, she didn’t even wait for him to sit so he could pilot her, she just opened her mechanical jaws and basically swallowed him as if he was just some glorified snack. It was hard getting into the cockpit with Red flying as fast as she could, and maneuvering as recklessly as her former paladin did, but he managed, although barely —he wasn’t proud enough to deny the fact that he had tripped on the way over; more than one time. Now safely seated, he sighed and turned his comms on.
He was welcomed by his teammates shouting at him.
“Where are you going, Lance?”
“What are you doing?!”
“Why did you leave?”
Before they could keep screaming at him, he talked.
“Guys, guys. Please, stop. Listen, I actually don’t know where I’m going. Red was going to fly god knows where, so, before she could take off without any of us knowing how to get to her or where the hell she’s going, I just kindly asked her to wait for me. That’s all I know.”
Silence. He couldn’t decide if it was a good one or a bad kind of silence.
“Red was going to go?” Hunk asked, confused.
He was so glad his best friend wasn’t shouting at him.
“Yeah, man. She was all worried and roaring, and I was like hey, Red, wait for me before getting the fuck out of here, please-”
Lance chose to ignore Shiro’s knee jerk response to swearing.
“-so, she waited for me but took off as soon as I was in the hangar. She didn’t even let me get inside the cockpit! I feared she was going to eat me,” he ended with a touch of too much drama.
A light laugh was heard from Hunk. He internally pumped his fist. If Hunk was laughing, then that meant he wasn’t any closer to having an anxiety attack. A calm Hunk was the best Hunk. He didn’t need to worry more than he already did.
“I don’t think she would want to, Lance. If anything eats you, I fear for their wellbeing.”
A joking Pidge was a calm Pidge. Another fist bump.
“Hey, now! I am delicious, anything that ate me would be having the meal of its life! I am a whole snack! And dinner and breakfast and lunch! It would be the luckiest day of the thing’s life!”
Everyone groaned, and he could distinctly hear Coran face palming.
My job here is done, he thought, giving himself a mental little pat on the back.
“We’re tracking the red lion. If everything is okay, we’ll be following you in a few seconds,” said Allura.
“I think is best if you follow me from a safe distance. I don’t know where Red is going nor why. So, just to be sure, don’t get too close. If I get into any trouble, I’ll tell you and you can all swoop in to save the day. In the meantime, give me a few minutes before following us.”
Allura hummed in agreement and he sighed in relief. He didn’t want to put any of them at risk. Not if he could help it.
“Do you… do you think Red’s going to Keith?” Pidge’s voice sounded softer than normal, and a bit scared.
He could guess why. Red only did that when Keith was in danger.
“We’ll find out soon enough,” he mumbled. “But, hey, maybe she just misses him. You know how Red’s a whole overprotective mom with him, checking up on your kid is a normal mom thing,” he tried to lighten the mood. He was already worried as hell, he couldn’t bear the team worrying too. Pidge hummed, but he could hear the small smile she was probably wearing. He knew his team. He knew them like the back of his hand, at this point.
Red was flying fast enough that within less than two minutes, Allura and Coran were able to start following him with a more than safe distance. He was nervous. Red had full control and he was just there, sitting and wondering where the hell she could be going.
Dios, espero que ese idiota no esté en problemas. O, por lo menos, no tanto.
What Pidge said was true. Red only behaved that way when Keith was in danger. Or when he needed her, but he had to really need her or really try to reach her through their bond for her to take off on her own. None of those options were good options.
He cursed when he saw the wreckage in front of him. Parts of Galra fighter ships and a Galra cruiser were floating around a planet. He felt a little relieved when Red bypassed all that and, while hiding herself the best she could, headed towards several small asteroids. She approached one of the larger ones, and Lance felt the air leave his lungs. It felt like someone had punched him in the chest with all the strength they could muster.
“No,” he choked out.
Two Galra ships where on the surface, one was fine, while the other was a wreck. He could see a singular Galra standing over the wrecked ship, whether they came out of it or had gone there from the other, he didn’t know, and before he could even start thinking which one it was, Red opened her jaws and the wrecked ship along with the Galra were gone from the asteroid. While the lion took off towards, hopefully, the castle, he put on his helmet and his bayard turned into his rifle, but nothing deadly, just —as always— set to stun. Inhaling deeply, trying to calm his racing and nervous heart, he left the cockpit in favor of Red’s mouth. Trying to be as silent as possible, he snuck behind the Galra and pointed his rifle at them, and faster than he could notice, they pointed their own gun at him. While surprised, he barely flinched, not wanting to give the Galra a chance to think he was afraid so they could use it against him.
But as soon as he saw that fucking mullet and half of Keith’s body already out of the wrecked ship, fear was all he could feel. While Keith’s upper body had clearly been dragged —or that’s what he thought from all the rubble at his sides but not on him, and the bits on the floor of Red’s jaws—, his lower half was still inside the ship. He couldn’t distinguish from where he was dragged out, if a hole on the ship or some kind of window, but the lack of cuts on the other boy gave him hope that he hadn’t been hurt by any kind of glass.
“Get away from him,” he growled, as menacing as he could, his heart beating so hard it was ringing through his ears.
The Galra cocked their head to the side.
“Who are you and why did you bring us to your lion?”
Lance took a step closer, feeling the Galra’s gun touching his forehead, but his rifle touched the Galra’s, so he took it as a win.
“I said. Get away. From him. I’m not going to repeat myself again. Do it before I shoot you in the face.”
“Not before I shoot you.”
He couldn’t retaliate, a groan interrupting his train of thought.
His eyes moved towards the body lying in the middle of the wreckage. Keith’s eyes groggily fluttered open, and Lance felt relieved that at least Keith wasn’t fucking dead. But the relief was short lived, confusion filling him at the alarmed look on his friend’s eyes.
And worried. Keith was worried. There wasn’t an ounce of fear of the Galra in front of him. But, strangely, worry for the Galra as much as for Lance.
“Krolia, step back. Please, step back. Lance, she’s not a threat. She’s part of the Blades. She’s with us.”
Lance frowned, but took a step back anyways. The Galra, Krolia, did as well, lowering her weapon. But Lance couldn’t. He walked sideways until he was right in front of Keith, his body shielding the other’s. Krolia threw her weapon and lifted her hands, so, risking his life —I hope to hell you’re right, Keith—, he lowered his bayard and kneeled beside Keith. Slowly and as gently as he could, he pulled the other boy until he was out of the fighter ship, the small gasps and groans leaving Keith’s lips causing Lance’s heart to stop for a second with every one of them, worry and fear filling him. He checked Keith over, not seeing any external wounds, and, hoping there wasn’t an internal one, he helped Keith sit up.
“What the hell happened, Keith? Are you hurt?”
“Lower your fucking voice, Lance. I’m not hurt,” he slurred.
The Galra laughed humorlessly.
“Don’t lie, Keith.” She turned to Lance, her gaze piercing. “His ship was hit on both engines and ended up crashing into every asteroid out here before ending up where you found us. It wasn’t a smooth landing.”
Lance glared first at the Galra and then at Keith.
“Fuck, Keith, can you stop being an asshole for one second?” he grumbled.
Keith rolled his eyes, although it was obvious even sitting upright was taking a lot of energy from him. Should he really roll his eyes when he clearly had a concussion, at the very least?
“I’m telling you I’m fine. Don’t listen to her-”
Lance’s hand found the back of Keith’s head and he felt something wet. His heart raced inside his ribcage, too worried and too scared of the other being seriously hurt. He showed Keith his hand. It was red.
“I think I will. You’re fucking bleeding, Keith. Stop being a stubborn idiot.”
“I’m not a-” but he wasn’t able to finish his sentence, because as soon as the words left his lips, Keith’s eyes slowly lost focus until they fluttered closed and he lost consciousness. And, Lance suspected, not for the first time.
“Fuck! Guys, I need you to get me a pod ready! Keith is hurt and he just lost consciousness, and I’m pretty sure it’s not the first time! He’s bleeding, probably hit his head pretty hard several times and I think he’s bruised all over. We’re coming in, in a few minutes. And we have company.”
He looked right at the Galra. Krolia looked worried, her body strung tight. But he couldn’t give her the benefit of the doubt. Not with his teammate unconscious and hurt.
He threw a pair of handcuffs at her.
“If you know what’s best for you, you’ll put those on. I won’t have you anywhere near my friends with your hands free.”
She nodded, putting them on.